I respect and appreciate what the members of our public education system do for our children and communities. The men and women I know are consummate professionals, dedicated to their profession.
Although my home school district is the basis of this piece, my comments are directed to every working member of the public education system.
Recently, I listened to a presentation by Tyrone Area School District Superintendent William Miller. It included No Child Left Behind and a host of state mandates that everyone must follow.
My industry has its share of mandates, so I can understand the frustration that all endure. Miller concluded the presentation with a budget report summarizing past, present and next years' budget requirements to run the Tyrone schools.
What blew me away was when he pointed out the amount of money that will need to be cut from the 2011-12 school year to cover a nearly $1.7 million drop in direct state funding and an additional $1 million in new expenses. If this is what Tyrone is facing, everyone should get used to the idea that cuts won't be limited to sports or after-school programs.
Folks, are there line items within your districts' budget that you have specific influence over and that, if acted on, would enable your district to lessen the blow of these proposed cuts. Consider a pay freeze and what you contribute toward the cost of health care.
As a parent (my children are raised and on their own) and small-business owner, I understand the financial pain and challenges of doing more with less. There is never a good time to add expenses, let alone incur a pay reduction. There may be some among you who consider taking a wage freeze as a sign of weakness.
I would suggest accepting a pay freeze shows you recognize and understand the difficult times we live in. Regarding health care, some of you pay nothing toward the fixed premium cost, while others pay very little. For those of you who take exception to this suggestion, you might consider asking neighbors or relatives working in the private sector what percentage of their fixed premium they pay. Percentages vary, but it's likely you'll encounter a number in the range of 20 percent for employee-only coverage with that number reaching 50 percent or more for those with family coverage.
Health care is not an entitlement of employment. It is a service. It costs money, and everyone should participate.
Although it's early in the negotiations process, teachers and professional staff should consider the distinct possibility the Legislature, pondering the proposed cuts, could also authorize districts the power to furlough personnel if necessary.
As already mentioned, cuts this massive are going to require more than the possible implementation of pay to play sports or offering early retirements.
The system you have built your lifestyle upon has made promises and amassed liabilities that for decades have far and away exceeded the taxpayer's ability to pay for.
I take no pleasure in making these statements, and I'm sure they're difficult for most to read and accept. I encourage teachers and professional staff to stay positive during the process and to focus on budget items that you could directly impact. I suggested two. There are likely others.
Randy L. Miles Sr. lives in Tyrone.